This week I was once again reminded about the cotton candy consistency of some Nigerian jobs. The average Nigerian job is fraught with uncertainty, so much so that the initial euphoria of getting the job is quickly replaced by trepidation.
At your job, you can run a gamut of emotions in a day, from sadness to anger. Anger when you realise that your initial job description might as well not exist. The job descriptions are so vague and always have that one sentence: You may be required to perform duties outside of your normal responsibilities from time to time, as needed. Which might as well translate into, ‘I own you now b***h’. Your friends and family will try and coat it with a ‘but you’re learning’. Don’t let them fool you. You had absolutely no intention of becoming an accountant so why are you drawing up budgets and preparing salary sheets. No intention of being an event planner so why do you now know the cost of renting tents and icing chests. Ogas will change your job title and role with no subsequent training and then set your performance benchmarks on the new position. When you fail at this role that you did not ask for; they will be bewildered (at best) and enraged (at worst).
These Ogas & Madams. Who are they? Usually, they are born into a bubble of privilege which they largely stay within. Quite a number of business owners have either lived, worked and schooled abroad. As they jet from country to country, one wonders if they are made of teflon and the best practices of those countries do not stick. Good habits of paying on time, shorter working hours, respecting workers seem to slide off them once they come back to Naija.
This bubble also keeps them from relating with their workers. They cannot comprehend their workers’ dreams; they cannot imagine their workers having the same dreams that they have for themselves. I recall a former madam of mine asking me what I liked to do. I said travel. And she said well you can go to Ghana. And I just looked at her. Ghana ke? I wanted to go to places like the Seychelles, Mexico, Jamaica. I was dreaming big, and yet I seemed so small to her.
Another incarnation of their classism is the bewilderment that meets you when you ask for a pay rise. That N70,000 salary should be enough. What else do you need to pay for that N70,000 can’t cover? The excuses come fast. We have to pay for A,B,C…X,Y,Z. Yes… we nod with understanding and sympathy and then watch them travel whilst we stay behind and run the company which fuels their trips. We stay behind and work jobs they feel we should be lucky to have. They cannot grasp how you would be better off in another job. Their organization is utopia. Where else can you go? You will be regaled with talk about how people left and where are they now? Earning more than N70,000 that’s where.
With Ogas and Madams you are continually on call. You will receive phone calls at odd times at night about innocuous things that can wait until the next day. I imagine this is because they grew up in homes where they had (and still have) servants at their beck and call. Servants, who can be fired on a whim, people who they talk down to and sometimes insult. They then run their multi million naira companies that way. The owner’s wife doesn’t like you? You’ll come into work and find access to your computer has been revoked. That will be your first inkling that something is wrong. The five step process to dismissal in the employee manual will evaporate. That contract or confirmation letter you fought for will barely cover you like that pastie on Janet Jackson’s boob in the super bowl half time performance.
We also have the group of Ogas who do not appreciate your work and never see the good in what you do. Please do not begin to doubt your abilities; they just feel that you’re not approaching it exactly like they would ergo your work will always be inferior. Any extra effort you make is seen as their due, covered by the salary. Spend out of pocket on company expenses; sleep over at work so that an important update is sorted out. All covered. Rarely is a thank you offered.
Maybe what we need is more Ogas & Madams who literally started from the bottom (sing it Drake!), who know what it is to claw a life out of nothing, whose lives used to be full of uncertainty. But they had that dream; that vision and drive. Maybe we need a better Nigeria that fosters this talent and a more conducive environment where they can thrive and rise to the top. Maybe only then, will our Ogas see themselves in us.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang